Rick Santorum can spew his racist nonsense about Native Americans in part because the major cultural institutions in the nation have not done anything to contribute to reminding the mass numbers of Americans that Native people exist and are a critical part of contemporary American life. That very much includes the media, as Julian Brave NoiseCat reminds us:
You see, it’s impossible to understand the United States’ landmass, its property system, its federal government, its corruption, its violence, its obsession with guns and its conception of freedom without Indigenous Peoples. And yet there are so many Rick Santorums who opine on the nature of a nation built on land, life, liberty and so much else taken, borrowed or otherwise lifted from Native people without even the basic acknowledgment of our presence, our contributions and our losses.
I’m not sure CNN should can Santorum, as many of my Native colleagues, would like. I’m worried that might just turn him into the latest martyr of the “cancel culture” wars. Santorum hasn’t won an election since Sen. Bob Casey beat him by 18 points in 2006, and it’s probably unwise to unintentionally elevate the voice of a man who encounters his own thoughts so clumsily at a time when the conservative movement is losing its grip on reality.
Perhaps, instead, CNN could help fight the pervasiveness of Santorum-style ignorance by hiring a regular on-air Native contributor. Native contributions to American life are many. But we’ve never had one of our own as a regular on CNN.
That goes beyond CNN. I don’t think there’s been a regular media columnist who is also Native in the history of American media. Simply put, across the political spectrum, Americans don’t take Native issues seriously and minus certain issues such as pipelines, they are largely ignored in national discussions of race in favor of the Black-White binary.